Work to bring the Endeavour replica to Whitby in time for the summer Captain Cook celebrations has started.
The vessel, which is currently based in Stockton, is being dismantled ahead of the move down the coast, where it will have a new home in Whitby.
In August a partnership led by Whitby businessman Andrew Fiddler purchased HM Bark Endeavour, one of only two full-scale replicas in the world of the ship commanded by explorer Captain James Cook for his voyage to Australia and New Zealand.
The partnership’s auction bid of £155,000 safeguarded the replica’s future as a North East visitor attraction, having beaten competing bids that could have seen the ship moved to Portsmouth, London or Dubai.
Cranes are now on site on the River Tees to prepare the 400 tonne vessel for its voyage to Whitby. All three masts are now down ahead of a £750,000 refurbishment. The arrival of the legendary tall ship in Whitby in 2018 will coincide with the 250th anniversary when Captain Cook first set sail from Portsmouth on-board Endeavour to observe the transit of Venus at Tahiti, circumnavigate and chart New Zealand and chart the East coast of Australia.
Moving the ship is a complex process and will involve divers having to attach heavy lifting straps to get the mammoth vessel out of the water to be transported by road. After the refurbishment it will be towed out to sea before heading down to Whitby.
It is hoped the Endeavour will become a popular visitor attraction and a valuable contributor to the Yorkshire coast.
The Endeavour has a close affiliation to Whitby. It was built in the town and a replica of the ship drew huge crowds in 1997. Mr Fiddler said: “To have secured one of the most distinctive and historic maritime attractions is fantastic particularly as I’ve had a lifelong passion for the sea. Not only did I serve in the Royal Navy but I also participated in Endeavour ’90, a six-month circumnavigation of the globe which included visiting Dutch Harbour in the Aleutian Islands where Cook landed. Now we have to carefully work out a complex programme for sensitively refurbishing the ship so that once again HM Bark Endeavour can tell the story of life at sea in the 18th century.”
The vessel will form part of the 250th anniversary of the momentous first voyage of Captain Cook, which will be celebrated in Whitby in early July, kick starting a series of nationwide anniversary events.